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History of Athens

Athens, the County seat of Henderson County, was established by an act of the Texas Legislature in 1850 on a one square mile site of land donated by Matthew Cartwright.  The city was incorporated in 1856.  However, through a mischievous prank by several citizens the incorporation was abolished.

E. J. Thompson, County Clerk of Henderson County is credited with being the first citizen of Athens.  Mrs. Dull Averiette named Athens in honor of Athens Greece.  Mrs. Averiette felt the town would become the cultural center of the county.  An interesting sequence of Mrs. Averiette’s prophecy is that the new high school is now located in the exact spot on the tree shaded hill where the original Averiette home was built before the War between the states.  This large rustic home burned several years ago and the Athens Public School System purchase the site, which included some 30 acres, and have built several new school buildings and playing fields there.  The Averiette family lived there until the late twenties when the grandsons of Mrs. Averiette moved to California.

Henderson County was created in 1846 from Houston and Nacogdoches Counties.  Named for J. Pinckney Henderson, first Governor of Texas, who was in office when the county was created.

The topography of Henderson County consists of rolling hills, with 32% of the county forested.  There is drainage to the Neches and the Trinity Rivers.  Clay, loam and sandy soils make up the county.  Oil, gas, sand, gravel and clays are produced.

Beef, cattle, and poultry are chief farm enterprises.  Nursery stock, timber, fruits, and vegetables are sources of income with some commercial fish farming. Athens is known as the “Black-Eyed Pea Capital”, and lays claim to being the Home of the Original Hamburger.   

Athens Timeline

1850
Texas Legislature established the town of Athens (formerly known as Alfred)

1850
Athens established and became the county seat of HendersonCounty

1856
Pottery industry began in Athens by Levi Cogburn

1873
The Athens Bulletin became the first newspaper printed in HendersonCounty

1881
Hawn Lumber Company opened.  Became the oldest continuous business in Athens

1885
First issue of the Athens Review printed on a Washington hand press

1899
First bond election passed to build a public school building ($5,000)

1899
City of Athens successfully incorporated

1904
Uncle Fletch Davis introduced his creation, “the hamburger”, to the world at the St. Louis World’s Fair

1913
Current Henderson County Courthouse built; refurbished in 1965 and again in 1986

1920
Cotton Palace served the HendersonCounty area as agricultural fairgrounds

1929-1930
Athens High School won the final two National High School Basketball Tournaments held annually for many years at the University of Chicago

1933
Old Fiddlers gathered on the downtown square for the first Old Fiddler’s Reunion (officially begun in Bethel, the group moved to Athens in 1933)

1946
Henderson County Junior College began educating Texas students (now TrinityValleyCommunity College)

1948
Henderson County Memorial Hospital opened

1954
Athens Municipal Airport opened

1958
Athens boasts the first Dairy Queen in Texas to offer an inside dining room

1959
Texas Legislature established the Henderson County Historical Commission

1962
Lake Athens was constructed offering quality water and recreational opportunities

1963
The Spanish Trace Inn opened for business on the same day the nation loses it President

1970
First Black-Eyed Pea Jamboree held to celebrate the farming industry in Athens

1981
Ground-breaking held for a new 4,000 seat coliseum at the Henderson County Fairgrounds

1983
The Cain Center opened as a state-of-the-art civic and community center

1984
First Annual Uncle Fletch Davis Hamburger Cook-off was held

1984
Athens Central Business Association was formed

1985
East Texas Medical Center opened new modern facility on South Highway 19

1985
Texas Department of Transportation approved creation of a loop around Athens

1988
Keep Athens Beautiful was formed

1989
Athens Economic Development Corporation was formed to aid in bringing new business to Athens

1992
100.38 acres were purchased to develop the East Texas Arboretum

1993
Community leaders organized the Athens Visitor Initiative Program to further promote the Athens Community

1996
Texas Governor George Bush cut the ribbon to officially open the TexasFreshwaterFisheriesCenter, a major cooperative effort for Athens and the TexasParks and Wildlife Department

1998
Trinity Mother Francis Hospital opened the Emergency Care Clinic

1999
The County moved administrative offices to a newly renovated annex building across from the courthouse

1999
Expanding tourism outreach, the Athens Visitor Initiative Program officially opened the Athens Welcome Center on the downtown square

2000
Athens Middle School is constructed on Hwy. 19 South in response to an expanding student base

2006
Texas Department of Transportation completes the last section of Loop 7 around Athens

2006
Athens became a Certified Retirement Community through the GO TEXAN program 

2009
Disciples Clinic opens offering free indigent care

2010
In an expansion move, Henderson County purchases Prosperity Bank

2010
The historic Masonic Lodge is imploded to make way for a new location of Prosperity Bank in downtown Athens

2010
Expansion of Hwy 175 finishes, providing a four-lane highway connecting Dallas to Athens

2010
East Texas Medical Center announces a $32M expansion of their Athens facility to be completed in 2011

2011
A major move combines Athens Economic Development Corporation, the Athens Chamber of Commerce, the City of Athens Department of Tourism, the TVCC Small Business Development Corporation and Keep Athens Beautiful, providing a one-stop shop at the Athens Partnership Center

2012
Athens receives its recertification as a Certified Retirement Community through the GO TEXAN program 

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